What price indeed. At Bohemian Mojo we decided it was high time we looked at the mind-boggling hypocrisies that surround food safety. It’s a big subject but after some recent happenings we thought it might be time to give you our take on what’s really happening out there
Food safety is defined by the World Health Organisation as ‘thehandling, preparation, and storage of food in ways that prevent food borne illness along the entire chain from farm to plate. According to the WHO that includes guarding food from chemical contamination.
The truth is that in developed economies like the USA and UK the rules and regulations are heavily weighted in favour of the major food suppliers - the multi-national processed food companies. And whenever possible they are interpreted in favour of the big players on the food scene.
So you find small scale producers and artisan growers are subject to the full weight of heavy bureaucracy and a book full of rules to abide by. On the other hand giant food companies are allowed to fill their products with obscene levels of sugar, salt, additives, preservatives and emulsifiers.
We learnt for ourselves about this massive bias in the system when Bohemian Mojo went on a journey to Somerset in search of raw milk producers.
These are small scale advocates of unprocessed food and, as such, are subject to stringent regulations; not only in the UK but across the western world. It’s right that they should produce under strict standards of hygiene and the people from Somerset we recently featured - Dave Paull of Hurdlebrook dairy and the Bartletts at Hinton Farm – get that.
They see why their dairies must be spotless and beyond reproach. That’s not what they complain about. What annoys them is the system is not even handed.
While they have to undergo monthly checks on the cell counts in their dairies the big players go on stuffing their products full of rubbish with impunity. That’s a scandal but at least, we believed, they’re not putting lethal bacteria into the food chain.
Wrong! Just a week after our visit to those raw milk dairies UK headlines were revealing that eight out of every ten chickens sold in our supermarkets are infected with lethal campylobacter bugs. What’s more they have been for years.
Worse than that five out of ten raw chickens sold through these outlets are classed as highly dangerous!
The Food Standards Agency in Britain actually closed down a vending machine selling raw milk in the food hall of posh London store Selfridges. There was not a hint of bacterial contamination but that milk hadn’t been processed so, they reasoned, it was suspect.
This all happened at a time when the FSA knew full well that 80% of the chickens sold in the UK are contaminated by bacteria and half of them were potentially deadly. The hypocrisy is breathtaking.
One sniff of a rogue bacteria in their dairies and the Bartletts or Dave Paull would expect to be closed down by the FSA for a de-clean and possibly face fines.
How then has the FSA dealt with the criminal sale of millions of infested chickens? Well they complained to the poultry processors and the supermarkets that they weren’t doing enough to correct the situation!
Any close downs? Any filthy poultry seized? Any prosecutions? Of course not.
It’s obvious that food safety watchdogs like the FSA and the processing industry work hand in glove. They work to keep the supermarket shelves full. Their real priority is maintaining food supply not food safety. It’s appalling.
There’s more. April 7th is World Health Day and the Geneva based World Health Organisation have designated Food Safety as this year’s theme. They rightly point out that food-borne diseases take their toll and say all food should be as safe as possible.
Their campaign is largely directed at Third World and Developing World countries and underscores basic food hygiene rules; clean hands, clean surfaces, separation of cooked and uncooked meats, thorough cooking etc.
Vital information, which could, given the basic clean water supply so many Third World communities lack, save lives. It’s a message that UK shoppers should heed too; especially if they’re buying a supermarket chicken.
What the WHO doesn’t address with their World Food Safety Day is the torrent of sugar, salt, emulsifiers and E numbers being poured into food consumed in the developed economies by the multi-national food processors.
True the WHO opened a consultation on the effects of ‘free sugars’ in March 2014 and came up with a recommendation they should be 10% of calorific intake. But the WHO report focussed only on the dental effects of too much sugar.
It’s unlikely to have any serious leverage on the food industry and meanwhile the diet related epidemic of ‘non communicable diseases’ like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, a few auto-immune conditions and various allergies continues unabated.
This list of disease and poor health doesn’t even address the question of the long term effects of ‘convenience’ food on mankind. It’s well known diet plays into the evolution of all species but it’s only recently science has begun to take a serious look at the direction this high sugar, high additive diet might be taking us. I shudder to think.
Yes, government health departments issue advice to consumers about sugar and salt in diets. But it’s only advice. How do they expect those consumers with limited purchasing power to find a healthy diet in the world of the supermarket? Not an easy task.
It’s an issue Bohemian Mojo ponders a great deal and we hope to come up with some helpful advice on how to organise a better diet for yourselves’ from the bleak landscape of store shelves stacked with unhealthy options. Watch this space!
Why don’t governments simply ban high levels of sugar in processed foods you may ask? As in the notorious case of the supermarket chickens the obvious implication is they collaborate with the food industry. Evidently there’s a global overproduction of sugar and the best way to use it up, at great profit, is to pour it into supermarket brands.
Time and again food industry lobbyists outgun healthy diet advocates to block legislative reform. It’s a continuing scandal and the cynical dodging and sidestepping of these issues by successive governments across the developed economies is dismal.
So there we have it. The little guy gets nailed while the real villains of the piece do much as they please with the general connivance of the tax funded, so called protection agencies.
No wonder the completely fastidious, closely monitored, raw milk producers watch in disbelief as filthy chickens are sold in supermarkets. All the while the UK’s largest poultry producer, 2 Sisters, complains about ‘unnecessary over reaction and undue alarm for consumers.’
What price food safety? You may well ask.